How to Become a CISO: Your Guide to a Successful Cybersecurity Career

How to Become a CISO: Your Guide to a Successful Cybersecurity Career | Senior Executive Programs | Emeritus

Technological prowess can be a major factor in determining the success of a business. However, there’s a flip side. With technology permeating every aspect of the modern workplace, businesses have an unprecedented vulnerability to digital sabotage and, often, aren’t prepared to deal with it. According to the Fortinet Cybersecurity Skills Gap report 2022, 80 per cent of global organizations surveyed had faced at least one cyber breach that could be attributed to a lack of cybersecurity skills or awareness. Not surprisingly, there has been a boom in the demand for cybersecurity professionals. 

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs for information security analysts are predicted to grow by 35 per cent between 2021 and 2031. The Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) position is at the peak of the hierarchy of cybersecurity jobs and is extremely sought after. Do you want to understand how to become a CISO? Here’s a guide to help you reach this top job.

course strip

What is a CISO?

A chief information security officer or CISO is the C-suite executive responsible for determining and overseeing the cybersecurity policies of an organization. They are in charge of multiple teams of cybersecurity professionals who work on identifying digital vulnerabilities of a business and ensuring that their data assets are well protected. 

What Does a CISO Do?

1. Overseeing the Business’ Cybersecurity Program

Not only do CISOs help organizations determine their cybersecurity strategy, but they are also responsible for ensuring that they are compliant with their own policies as well as local laws. 

cybersecurity courses blog2. Managing Cybersecurity Personnel

The organization’s cybersecurity operations are not a one-person job. The CISO requires a team of cybersecurity professionals to ensure that vulnerabilities are identified and threats are dealt with. They oversee the hiring, training, and operations of the cybersecurity workforce of the business. 

3. Aligning Business Objectives With Security Policies

CISOs work closely with chief information officers (CIOs) to ensure that business growth does not compromise security. They guide the organization in following cybersecurity measures for new projects. 

4. Reporting on Cybersecurity

CISOs report to the board and other important stakeholders regarding information like the risk profile of the organization, cybersecurity incidents, and best practices. They also play a vital role in providing security assurances to relevant stakeholders.

5. Overseeing Incident Response Operations

The CISO oversees and advises security personnel in case of a cybersecurity incident. They ensure that incidents are dealt with and communicate information about the response to the board.

How to Become a CISO

Step 1: Get the Education You Need

A bachelor’s degree in computer science or a related field is the minimum requirement to become a CISO. Most businesses also expect candidates to have postgraduate qualifications in cybersecurity like a Master of Science in Cybersecurity (MSCS) degree.

Step 2: Gain Necessary Technical Experience

Most CISO jobs will require you to have at least five years of experience as a cybersecurity professional. Businesses expect candidates to have extensive technical knowledge of the cybersecurity space and be up-to-date on common security threats specific to their industry. 

Step 3: Develop Leadership Skills

A CISO requires exceptional leadership skills to manage, support, and communicate with its cybersecurity workforce. Most CISO positions will require you to have at least seven years of management experience. You can upskill in this area by taking a leadership course on Emeritus.

Step 4: Develop Your Strategic Vision and Planning

Organizations want to hire executives who can lead innovation and growth in every aspect of their business. To stand out from other candidates, you will need to showcase a unique perspective on how you intend to shape the organization’s security strategy.

Step 5: Develop Executive Presence

Executive presence is the ability to inspire confidence in your subordinates. You will have to develop your personality in a way that motivates your team members to go above and beyond to meet business objectives.

Step 6: Network With Other CISOs

Learning from the cybersecurity strategies of other successful CISOs is a great way to develop your own vision for the business you will be a part of. 

What are Some Career Paths to Becoming a CISO?

As with any high-ranking position, there are innumerable career paths you can follow to reach your destination. 

Suppose you’re in the IT sector and considering a move to cybersecurity. In that case, you can start by acquiring beginner-level certifications like the Microsoft Technology Associate (MTA) Security Fundamentals certification and the ISACA CSX Cybersecurity Fundamentals Certificate. These will help you get your first job in the security sector. 

During your professional experience in the field, you will need to work on building relevant skills like cryptography, penetration testing, risk management, budgeting, leadership, and communication, among others. 

It will make sense to follow this up with a master’s degree with a concentration in cybersecurity or computer science 

Before you seek a job as a CISO, it might also make sense to acquire additional certifications like Certified Information Systems Security Professional – Architecture (CISSP) or Certified Information Security Manager (CISM).

You can use these qualifications to apply for prestigious CISO positions.

What Skills are Most Important for a CISO?

If you are considering learning how to become a CISO, you need to understand the skills needed to be considered for the position. These extend beyond just technical skills. They include: 

  • An understanding of business
  • Excellent communication skills
  • Exceptional knowledge of cybersecurity and threat mitigation
  • Project management skills
  • Top-notch leadership skills
  • A thorough understanding of recruitment and training

What are the Hottest Markets for CISOs?


According to ZipRecruiter, the typical annual salary paid for a CISO job is higher than the average in the US.

  • Atkinson, NE $240,567
  • Frankston, TX $229,936
  • Barnstable Town, MA $226,972
  • Inverness, CA  $225,088
  • Sunnyvale, CA $223,238
  • Dimondale, MI $217,898
  • Hooper Bay, AK  $216,892
  • Manhattan, NY  $216,531
  • Skyline-Ganipa, NM $210,072
  • Cambridge, MA $209,816

The Cybersecurity Market Size and Share Report by Grand View Research claim that Europe had a €34 billion cybersecurity market in 2021, which was 8% larger than the previous year. The top average annual base salaries for CISO jobs, according to Payscale, are in Amsterdam( The Netherlands) at €117,110, Berlin (Germany) at  €110,000, and Dublin ( Ireland) at €107,442. The report also claims that the Asia-Pacific market is predicted to grow the fastest over the forecast period, at a CAGR of 15%.

As you can see, this is an extremely high-demand role and if you are looking to be on the fast track to leadership in this field, then upgrade your skills by taking a leadership course on Emeritus.

Check out New York Tandon School of Engineering’s exclusive Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) Program.

By Tanish Pradhan

Write to us at

course banner

About the Author

Content Marketing Manager, Emeritus Blog
Manasa is the content ninja that every brand needs. Apart from being an expert in tech-related trends and digital marketing, she has found her calling in edtech. Her 10-year-long tryst with education started with a teaching fellowship for underprivileged children, followed by a stint as an edupreneur. It gave her the perspective she now uses to create impactful content for Emeritus. Manasa loves the life of a digital nomad that allows her to travel and hopes her reels go viral on the Gram.
Read more

Courses on Senior Executive Programs Category

Courses inBusiness Management | Education Program  | Emeritus

Columbia Business School Executive Education

Executive Program in Management

6 Months


Starts on: May 29, 2024

Courses inDigital Marketing | Education Program  | Emeritus

Columbia Business School Executive Education

Chief Marketing Officer Program

9 to 12 Months


Starts on: June 13, 2024

Courses inHealthcare | Education Program  | Emeritus

Emory Executive Education

Chief Medical Officer Program

9 to 12 Months


Starts on: June 17, 2024

US +1-606-268-4575
US +1-606-268-4575